Photographer Leverages Vivid Colors to Convey a Visceral Vibe

Using color in photography

Polina Washington spent years only shooting and printing black and white film before adapting powerful and vibrant color to tell a story in her photos.

Connecting with Color in Photography

Based in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, and is currently staying in Bali, Indonesia, Washington is a self-described visual explorer. Although she acquired a degree in cinematography, she rarely if ever worked with artificial light in her photography, and exclusively shot on black and white film and says didn’t really understand color.

“I never imagined photography in color,” Washington tells PetaPixel. “I liked playing with contrasts, silhouettes.”

“I liked that you could cut out the superfluous,” she continues. It was getting too monotonous for me to do monochrome anymore. It wasn’t enough for me to do monochrome anymore.”

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Since her creative switch to color, Washington still creates black and white shots, but only on rare occasions and mostly in situations when she can’t enhance the desired feeling she wants to portray using color.

Washington considers color and light to be powerful tools for visual storytelling.

” “Before I was able to achieve color pictures with colored lights, but then, I discovered that I can see the picture in natural light with the same processing.”

Telling a Story With Color and Light Washington’s creative journey taught her how light and color affect photographs and how to combine them to make cinematic stills that have a painterly feel.

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“Light can hide what needs to be hidden or vice versa — to emphasize something important, so it controls the viewer’s attention very strongly,” Washington explains. She continues, “That is why I always pay close attention to the places where accents of light are directed

“Light helps you distinguish a character or merge with it or focus attention.” “It highlights what’s important and leaves out what’s not.”

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The discussion about the impact of color on photography is much more personal. Washington states that “we cannot deny the fact that certain wavelengths affect us in certain ways.” “But I try to rely on my own feelings and the experience and observation I have in photography and painting when choosing colors in the frame.”

“I don’t want to impose a certain condition or emotion on the viewer — I give them the freedom to experience something of their own because we are all different,” she adds.

Her unique photography style hasn’t gone unnoticed by Leica either, as Washington — for whom the Leica M-system camera had been a long-time dream — was one of the first to try the new Leica M11. Having shot with two M-system cameras before, the new M11 felt familiar but more comfortable.

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“Concerning color, I think all Leica cameras give a very good RAW image color, which is nice to work with in the color correction process,” Washington says. “I always edit my images, so I don’t have any preference as to what color I get in a RAW file. It’s enough for me that everything is balanced — then the next step of creativity starts in Lightroom or C1.”

For other photographers willing to learn more about the power of color, Washington’s fundamental advice is not to be afraid to experiment and do it freely, without the constraints of what may be considered “right”.

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“Everything new is born only when someone decides to try something out of the ordinary,” Washington advises. “The same thing works with light and color. While it’s important to understand the basics of light, and to have some ideas about how to use them for understanding purposes, you must also be able to create new tasks that are interesting and solve them. This is the way to development and interesting shots.”

More of Washington’s work can be found on her website and Instagram.


Image credits: Photos by Polina Washington.

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